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Zoological nomenclature in the digital era

DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-10-4

Keywords: Digital publication, International code of zoological nomenclature, International commission on zoological nomenclature, Scientific names of animals, ZooBank

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Publications containing the description of new species, the proposal of names for new supraspecific taxa, or other acts affecting the application of a given name to a given taxon are different, in an important sense, from ordinary scientific books or papers [1]. This is because introducing a new species name, or otherwise intervening on the use of the scientific names of animals, is not simply a way to translate into words the author’s view on a particular problem of animal taxonomy. The choice of the names by which we refer to the individual species, genera or families in the animal kingdom is ruled by a set of principles known as the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature[2] (hereafter, ‘the Code’). Thus, in a sense, irrespective of its scientific quality or importance, a publication relevant to zoological nomenclature must be treated as a legal document. As such, it remains on record, virtually, for ever.Until recently, publication of new names in a work produced with ink on paper was required for their availability. A long awaited amendment to the Code issued in September 2012 by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature now allows publication of new names in online-only works, provided that the latter are registered with ZooBank, the Official Register of Animal Names. With this amendment, the rules of zoological nomenclature have been aligned with the opportunities (and needs) of our digital era. However, possible causes for nomenclatural instability remain.I mean, here, instability for intrinsic, purely nomenclatural reasons. These must be kept clearly separate from name changes due to alternative taxonomic views. Nomenclature should provide a unique name for each taxon in the classification, but, as stated in the Preamble to the Code, no rule is intended to restrict the freedom of taxonomic thought or actions [2]. How true this eventually is in practice, is an interesting question [3] that has been raised [4] even before an alternative se


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